20-01-2022 09:00

Defining the future of digital financial services

For over 20 years the global industry association Mobey Forum has been empowering banks and financial institutions to shape the future of digital financial services. During that time the forum’s focus has expanded from the early years of mobile payments to a whole range of data related subjects from privacy enhancing technology to the Internet of Things. Assessing the evolution of the Mobey Forum’s focus areas shines a spotlight on the developing path of technological innovation in digital banking.
Working at a table

Established in 2000, Mobey Forum is a member based organisation that draws together experts from banks, cards schemes, telecoms companies, technology providers and other participants in the digital financial services ecosystem. Membership of the Mobey Forum has grown steadily over the years but at the centre remains a group of founding banks including Nordea, Danske Bank, UBS, ING, HSBC, BBVA and TD Bank.

As a non-profit organisation, the Mobey Forum aims to identify and analyse commercial drivers and disruptors that are expected to have a real impact on the digital financial landscape within two to five years into the future. Mobey Forum is not a standardisation body or a lobby group but a collaborative space for shared learning and the exploration of important emerging subjects in digital finance. Members are invited to take part in quarterly meetings and expert groups are formed to create reports on key focus areas.

Actionable knowledge building

Ville Sointu, Head of Emerging Technology at Nordea and Member of the Board at Mobey Forum, says: “At the Mobey Forum, we look into the future but not too far into the distance. We are aiming to make actionable analysis and recommendations that can support decision makers now. Our quarterly meetings are places where members come to share their experiences and learnings and build new knowledge in a safe and trusted environment. More than anything, Mobey Forum is a community of like-minded people that are passionate about digital financial services and love getting together to discuss these topics, learn from each other and create new knowledge. It is a great network to discuss challenges and find meaningful answers.”

Recent topics addressed by the Mobey Forum include digital payments, data privacy, Open Banking, digital identity and the Internet of Things. Topics are approached with an emphasis on defining the potential position of banks in the developing ecosystem and what their future role could be.

Ville continues: “Mobey Forum has been on an incredible journey over the last 20 years and has outlived many other industry bodies and forums during this time. Nordea has been an integral part of the Mobey Forum since its inception and we have had representatives in leading positions throughout the forum’s history.”

The banking industry started looking at how we can use mobile phones as a new way to handle your banking interactions and ultimately of course, payments as well.

Ville Sointu, Head of Emerging Technology at Nordea and Member of the Board at Mobey Forum

Reflecting the course of a changing industry

The development of the Mobey Forum over the years provides a real mirror to the changing digital financial landscape. The name Mobey gives a strong hint at the driving subject of the day when the forum was first created. With ‘Mob’ standing for ‘mobile’ and ‘ey’ representing ‘payments’ all eyes were on the emerging technology of ‘mobile payments’ back in 2000.

In fact, the Mobey Forum was founded to encourage the use of mobile technology in financial services and to obtain the interoperability of technical and security requirements for the financial industry for mobile services. At its inception, the Mobey Forum’s role was to function as an active liaison between individuals, companies and enablers in the mobile payments space. Key players in 2000 were banks, handset manufacturers and mobile network operators. Since then the role of mobile network operators and handset manufacturers in mobile financial services has diminished, although they still have a role to play.

Ville says: “The Mobey Forum was started as a collaborative organisation for all of the industries to come together and solve the question of mobile banking and mobile payments specifically. The mobile internet was in its infancy and many of the conversations were around what is mobile technology going to be beyond just voice calls and text messages. The banking industry started looking at how we can use mobile phones as a new way to handle your banking interactions and ultimately of course, payments as well. Mobey Forum was an idea by the Finnish financial sector and Nokia, being the biggest player in the mobile phone market back then, to come together and solve these issues together as an industry organisation. Quickly many banks from around the world joined the initiative to experiment and discuss how to actually take mobile banking and mobile payments forward in a concrete way.”

Mobile payments required collaboration on so many levels and this was a new thing, especially for banks.

Ville Sointu, Head of Emerging Technology at Nordea and Member of the Board at Mobey Forum

From the vertical approach to collaboration

As the years progressed, the Mobey Forum remained a focal point for industry organisations such as banks and technology providers to come together and exchange information and experiences on how to get things done in the mobile payments and mobile banking space. As it became clear that combining many industry verticals into this new paradigm known as mobile financial services requires cooperation, coordination and standardisation, a collaborative network approach began to emerge as the norm.

Ville says: “This was a fairly new approach. When digital solutions were rolled out in the early two thousands, it was almost always just a vertical approach where a single company provided a single service for a single customer segment. Mobile payments required collaboration on so many levels and this was a new thing, especially for banks.”

Whilst the Mobey Forum has developed into different shapes and forms, it has maintained its mission to be an open forum for different specialists and professionals to come together and share experiences.

Ville says: “The people who come to the forum are actually executing on a lot of these initiatives inside banks. The Mobey Forum is about people working on these problems in real settings and then providing this exchange of real experiences and comparing notes on what went right or wrong. The Mobey Forum is often described as ‘content that you cannot Google’. That actually is true. I can count many cases where the first practical information and experience exchange between banks on how to do things has been made in Mobey Forums and the knowledge sharing has continued on a very practical basis ever since.”

“One thing that we always aim to do when we make research papers or investigations into these topics is that we want to bring it down to a very practical level. We always talk about concrete use cases instead of abstract opportunities of a specific technology, for example. The focus is on what does this mean to me as a bank in practice? We also realise that when we make our best practice recommendations in the papers that we publish, the audience is not necessarily the top management of banks or programmers in IT departments. It is really the business owners, product managers and business decision makers inside bank organisations that need to be able to translate between new technologies and business opportunities,” adds Ville.

More and more, the conversation is about the evolution of digital financial services in general.

Ville Sointu, Head of Emerging Technology at Nordea and Member of the Board at Mobey Forum

The next big thing

As mobile banking and mobile payments have become an everyday part of life, the Mobey Forum’s agenda has continued to evolve accordingly. From 2008 to 2012, discussions were focused on the emerging phenomena of mobile wallets. Members met to try to define what a mobile wallet really is and how it works, as well as describing what a mobile wallet means for banks in connection to mobile payments.

Ville says: “Mobey Forum was one of the leading organisations in the world in establishing the definition of mobile wallets. One of the expert groups that I was also a member of back then released six or seven different white papers around mobile wallets and they are still quite relevant today. Now we are all using mobile wallets in one way or another, with applications such as Apple Pay, Google Pay, etc and for the time being we can say we have a very good grasp of the mobile payments and mobile wallets paradigm.”

In recent years, the scope of subject areas has been expanded from payments to include a wide range of data related topics. For the Mobey Forum, deciding which area to focus on next has become an increasing challenge as so many aspects of the financial world are now conducted digitally.

Ville adds: “More and more, the conversation is about the evolution of digital financial services in general. So that’s why we are now including elements like data and data analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning and of course privacy enhancing technologies, digital identity, self-sovereign identity and new digital and virtual currencies. With such a broad set of themes we are now looking into whether we need to focus on some areas rather than just covering all of digital financial services. We still believe that when we write about privacy enhancing technologies, digital identity or IoT or even still mobile payments, the models and the observations that we make in these papers are contributing towards the future solutions and ecosystems as well. One thing is for sure, in 20 years a lot has changed and happened and we expect the next 20 years to be at least as fast paced as well from the Mobey Forum’s perspective.”

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